A backsplash is an important design element that serves both form and function behind sinks, stoves, and other wet areas in kitchens and bathrooms. When it comes to vanities, a backsplash can provide an extra layer of protection, enhance the style, and add visual interest. There are pros and cons to adding a backsplash behind a bathroom vanity, so it’s worth considering whether it’s the right choice for your space.
What is a Backsplash?
A backsplash is a vertical surface made of tile, metal, glass, or other water-resistant material installed on the wall behind a sink, stove, or other place where water might splash. Backsplashes became popular in kitchen design to protect the walls from moisture damage and stains.
In recent years, backsplashes have become a decorative focal point used to add style, color, and texture. Backsplash tiles come in an endless array of materials, sizes, shapes, colors, and patterns. From traditional white subway tile to ornate handmade murals, backsplashes make a statement.
Benefits of Adding a Backsplash Behind a Bathroom Vanity
There are several reasons why installing a backsplash behind a bathroom vanity is a smart idea:
Protects the Walls from Water Damage
The main purpose of a backsplash is to protect the drywall and paint behind a sink from water damage. Even if you are careful, splashes and spills happen. Dripping water can soak into drywall, warp it, and lead to mold growth. A properly sealed and caulked backsplash creates a water barrier to prevent this type of damage.
Easy to Clean
Backsplash tiles like glass, metal, and ceramic are impervious to water. They create a smooth, non-porous surface that is easy to wipe clean. Water, toothpaste, makeup, and other splatters can be quickly dealt with. A damp cloth is all you need to keep the backsplash sparkling and sanitary.
Backsplashes lend themselves to creative expression. Tiles come in a limitless array of colors, textures, shapes, and patterns. You can match or complement your vanity and fixtures or use the backsplash as a contrasting accent. A backsplash gives you an opportunity to add personality with glass mosaic tiles, decorative insets, or hand-painted ceramic tiles.
Ties the Space Together
A coordinated backsplash brings continuity to the whole bathroom. Matching or complementing the backsplash to the vanity, floor, shower, and decor ties everything together visually. It makes the space appear well-designed and pulled-together.
Increases Resale Value
Backsplashes are expected in kitchens and a high-end feature in baths. Going the extra mile by adding a backsplash shows attention to detail. The added style and protection a backsplash provides increases resale value.
Considerations Before Adding a Vanity Backsplash
While backsplashes offer numerous benefits, they may not be right for every bathroom. Here are a few things to take into account:
Backsplashes add cost in both materials and labor. Tiles can range from $5 per square foot on the low end to over $50 per square foot for high-end materials like handmade glass, marble, or Mother of Pearl accents. Professional installation is recommended, which also adds expense.
Standard backsplashes extend 4 inches above the counter. Make sure you have adequate wall space to accommodate a backsplash without impeding sconces, art, or mirrors. For very small baths, a backsplash may make the vanity feel too bulky.
The style of vanity and decor needs to be evaluated. Contemporary and minimalist baths may clash with a highly decorative backsplash. Simple clean lines and sleek surfaces may pair best with a low-profile linear glass backsplash. Make sure your backsplash choice complements your overall aesthetic.
Backsplashes by nature draw attention. Busy heavily patterned backsplashes may compete for attention in rooms where you want simpler surfaces to let an ornate mirror or striking art take center stage.
Tile backsplashes require periodic re-sealing of the grout lines to keep a water barrier intact. Grout needs regular cleaning. Natural stone can be prone to staining and may require special cleaners to keep it looking pristine. Consider the upkeep your choice of backsplash will require.
Best Materials for Vanity Backsplashes
If you decide a backsplash is right for your bathroom, choosing the right material is key both for function and style. Here are some top options:
Ceramic & Porcelain Tile
Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles are probably the most common backsplash choice because they are water-resistant, easy to clean, durable, and affordable. Subway tiles are a popular rectangular shape, but decorative styles like Moroccan fish scale tile, hand-painted Spanish ceramic tile, or polished porcelain plank tile are also options.
Glass tile maintains its color and resists water better than ceramic. It comes in every color and adds shiny reflectiveness. Small glass mosaic tiles are widely used, but larger rectangular or square tiles are also available. Metallic glass tile provides beautiful shimmer. Keep in mind that transparent glass shows any color discrepancies in the grout.
Marble, travertine, and granite backsplashes bring elegance along with good water resistance. But being porous, they require sealing to prevent staining. Use caution with acidic cleaners that can etch the surface. Granite is the most durable option.
Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, and zinc offer a sleek, contemporary look. Stainless steel provides the best protection and easiest cleaning. Copper and zinc can patina or corrode. Metal backsplashes work best trimmed with tiles or solid surfacing on the counter.
For a true statement, backsplashes can incorporate semi-precious stones and shells like Mother of Pearl, agate, or abalone. Resin insets can replicate stones at a lower cost. Using these more fragile materials as accents avoids extensive repairs if chipped.
Design Ideas for Bathroom Vanity Backsplashes
Once you decide to add a backsplash, choosing a look can be overwhelming given the endless options. Here are some popular backsplash design ideas to consider behind your bathroom vanity:
Classic rectangular white subway tiles arranged in a bricklaid pattern remain one of the most popular choices. Their clean lines suit both traditional and contemporary baths. Subway tiles can be glossy or matte. Colored grout adds interest.
Tiny mosaic tiles set in decorative patterns add visual impact. Keep the vanity and counters simple to let an elaborate mosaic backsplash take center stage. Combine colored tiles and metallic accents for dazzling results.
Marble, Travertine or Limestone
Natural stone backsplashes exude high-end luxury. Carrara marble is a common choice. Travertine brings an earthy feel with its porous surface. Honed or tumbled limestone looks ancient and elegant. Veining in the stone adds organic beauty.
Patterned & Hand-Painted Tile
Artistic patterned tiles like Moroccan, Spanish, and Talavera add handcrafted charm and color. Metallic accents played against matte backgrounds shine. Combining patterned tiles with solids prevents busy designs.
Glass & Crystal
Glass tile trim and crystal stone accents refract light beautifully. Use large glass tiles or mosaics sparingly as focal points against more subtle tiles or solid surfacing. Metallic glass tile and crystal designs make stunning linear backsplashes.
Natural Shell & Stone Insets
Frame sections of a backsplash with Mother of Pearl tile, agate slices, or strips of abalone shell. This allows their natural luminescence to shine as an accent against more common materials like ceramic or porcelain field tile.
Don’t be afraid to get creative mixing different tile sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. Using multiple materials prevents monotony. Just be sure similar colors and values are used to maintain harmony. Accent with bolder tiles.
Do’s and Don’ts of Vanity Backsplash Design
When designing a backsplash, keep these do’s and don’ts in mind:
- Select a water-resistant, durable, easy to clean material.
- Choose a style that complements your vanity and bathroom decor.
- Use sanded caulk for tile joints and seal properly to prevent moisture issues.
- Consider heat resistance if installing near lighting.
- Incorporate adequate electrical outlets.
- Illuminate with undercabinet lighting.
- Install tiles without a waterproof membrane behind them.
- Allow the top row of tiles to overlap too far onto the ceiling.
- Choose poor quality grout prone to staining.
- Allow grout lines wider than 1/8 inch.
- Forget the finishing edge pieces like bullnose tiles.
- Overdo busy patterns without balance.
FAQs About Vanity Backsplashes
How high should the backsplash extend?
4 inches above the counter is typical, but you can extend up to 18 inches if your style dictates. Building codes limit extension to no more than 4 feet above the top of the vanity counter.
Should the backsplash match the countertop?
Matching provides a streamlined look. Contrasting can add interest. Colors should coordinate and complement. Neutrals allow the backsplash as the focal point.
What about electrical outlets and sconces?
Make sure to accommodate outlets and lighting. Recessed niches in the backsplash are useful. Outlets can be raised if needed. Allow proper clearance for sconces.
Can I install the backsplash tile myself?
With proper planning and prep, experienced DIYers can often tackle backsplash installation. Ensure you have adequate skill at measuring, cutting, leveling, and grouting tile. If not, hire a professional tiler.
What about the sides and top edges?
Bullnose tiles or trim pieces give the sides and top edges of a backsplash a finished look. Schiare edge laminate strips can also work. Leave a 1/8 inch gap at corners.
How do I clean and maintain a backsplash?
Use mild non-abrasive cleaners and soft cloths to avoid scratching. Re-seal grout periodically. Buff metallic glass tile gently. Follow manufacturer maintenance recommendations.
So in summary, while backsplashes require an investment in time, effort, and money, their form and function benefits often make them a worthwhile addition behind bathroom vanities. Evaluate your goals, space, and style to decide if incorporating a backsplash is the right choice to add protection and beauty to your vanity area. With proper planning and design, a backsplash can enhance any bath.
The decision to add a backsplash behind a bathroom vanity comes down to your budget, the style you wish to achieve, and how much protection you need for your walls. While backsplashes require an initial investment, they offer many long-term benefits. At minimum, a simple backsplash adds functionality. Taken to the next level with an ornate tile design, a backsplash becomes a stunning decorative focal point. Evaluate your bathroom space and needs. If a backsplash meets them, it can be well worth transforming your vanity area from basic to beautiful.